Environmental IssuesFood Health and The EnvironmentPollution

A research study detects harmful metal exposures in aluminum cookware in Ghana

San Francisco and Accra – Researchers report finding alarming levels of lead and other metal exposures from cookware made from recycled aluminum in Ghana, according to a new study published this month. Jeff Weidenhamer, a professor of chemistry at Ashland University, is the first author of the article, “Metal exposures from source materials for artisanal aluminum cookware,” which was published in the International Journal of Environmental Health Research.

The average level of lead found in the equivalent of a single serving of food cooked in the mixed metal cookware tested was 36 times greater than the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s guidance for daily lead intake. Further, the lead levels reported are more than 220 times California’s maximum allowable dose level of 0.5 micrograms (µg) per day for lead. The study simulated cooking with palm oil and acidic foods. Similar cookware is widely used throughout the developing world and is available for purchase on commercial websites.

Blood lead levels have decreased following the removal of lead from gasoline in most of the world, but remain elevated in many low- and middle-income countries around the world in comparison to the U.S. and European Union. A recent study from Ghana showed that 65% of blood donors had elevated blood lead levels greater than 5 µg per day for lead.

Weidenhamer said, “This investigation suggests that regular use of this type of aluminum cookware is causing harmful lead exposures in Ghana and other countries. Lead poisoning from cookware can impact entire families over a lifetime.”

There are no regulatory standards for lead in cookware, but the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control have determined that there is no safe level of exposure to lead.

The authors investigated if segregating and avoiding certain source materials could reduce leaching of lead and other hazardous metals from this locally made cookware. They concluded that all of the cookware made from seven separate waste streams, typically used for this purpose, released harmful concentrations of lead, cadmium, chromium and other metals.

Perry Gottesfeld, executive director of Occupational Knowledge International, and an author of the article said, “Greater awareness of this hazard is needed in African and Asian countries where recycled aluminum cookware is commonly used. Public health authorities must inform the public that daily use of these pots can result in lead poisoning and other harmful health effects and that safer alternatives are available.”

Muntaka Chasant, an author of the article who has documented the local metal recycling process noted that ”informal sector metal workers are highly exposed to these same metals during the production process.”

At low levels, lead can damage the brain and result in lower school performance and behavioral problems among children and is associated with lower earnings later in life.  Several studies have also linked childhood lead exposures to future criminal and violent behavior.

In addition to the well-established harmful neurological effects of lead exposure for both children and adults, lead and cadmium are significant risk factors for heart attacks and strokes. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of deaths around the world. 

The article is available online at: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09603123.2022.2030677

About Occupation Knowledge International (OK International)

OK International is a nonprofit organization, based in San Francisco, that works to build capacity in developing countries to identify, monitor and mitigate environmental and occupational exposures to hazardous materials in order to protect public health and the environment. The organization seeks to address inequities in environmental standards between developed and developing countries by working in partnership with industry, government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button